Written by V Saravana Kumar and published on 09 September 2021.
Bullying leaves a scar in a child's mind that never really heals. So, the focus should be on prevention rather than cure. We talked to two experts of the field who share tips on how to curb this menace
"I was terrified. Every single day at school was hell because of the horrific experiences of bullying I had to endure. I didn't have the courage to either let my parents know or to fight against the bullies. Even after so many years, when I think of those days, it sends a chill down my spine," says 26-year-old Keshav Chandran. His words are testimony to the fact that bullying is rampant in schools and that it can have a terrible long-term impact on its victims.
A survey conducted by ParentCircle and the market research firm IMRB in 2016 unearthed the shocking fact that every third child in school is bullied. The survey covered 2,700 respondents who included children and parents from across the length and breadth of India. The fact that schools contain children from diverse sections of society makes them a fertile ground for bullying. Experts and educationists also agree that bullying has been going on in schools for many years.
In fact, bullying exists in schools throughout the world. The US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, conducted a School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey among school students aged 12 to 18 in 2015. The result, published in the National Center for Education Statistics, states that 20.8% of the students had experienced bullying in school. When it comes to the nature of bullying, the report states - 13.3% had been made fun of, called names or insulted; 5.1% had been pushed, shoved, tripped or spat on; 5% had been excluded from activities on purpose and 3.9% had been threatened with harm.
The survey also throws in some details on where exactly bullying happens most inside the school campus. It says 41.7% of the bullying happens in the hallway or staircase; 33.6% inside the classroom; 22.2% in the cafeteria; 19.3% outside, on the school grounds; 10% inside the school bus and 9.4% in the rest room. These numbers clearly indicate the intensity of bullying in schools.
Although there are many remedial measures to try and bring a victim of bullying back to normal, the best thing to do is prevent bullying from happening at all. Any child who becomes a victim of bullying could have traumatic memories that last for many years. So, to save a child from such an experience, we need to make sure we nip bullying in the bud.
"Prevention is always better than cure. Difficult emotions such as humiliation, embarrassment and social isolation that result from bullying form negative beliefs in the child. This negative loop can carry on into adult life, manifesting in academic under-performance, interpersonal problems, work- related performance issues and difficulties in personal relationships. So, it is always better to prevent bullying from happening, " says Arundhati Swamy, a Chennai-based family and school counsellor.
Aparna Samuel Balasundaram, a clinical psychotherapist and life skills expert, also emphasises the importance of prevention. "It's always better to prevent damage from happening, rather than taking corrective measures afterwards. Since bullying experiences are sometimes capable of haunting the victim for life, it becomes extremely vital to prevent them from happening," she says.
So, how actually can we prevent bullying? Here are some useful tips for schools (teachers and principals) and parents, with inputs from Arundhati and Aparna, to prevent bullying in school. If implemented correctly, these will definitely cut down the incidence of bullying to a huge extent.
Arundhati says, "Schools need to create a culture of caring for others, and should give importance to social and emotional learning. This will impact the overall school atmosphere, where children feel emotionally safe. Positive schools teach not just the skills of achievement but also the skills of well-being. They should ensure that their teachers are well trained in both these aspects, so that they make their classrooms bully-free zones. At the same time, parents should teach children to accept and respect diversity, and have empathy and concern for fellow humans, especially their peers."
So, whether you are a parent, teacher or principal, the onus is on you to implement these measures and prevent bullying. What is at stake is the future of the children. So, isn't it absolutely necessary that you make a positive effort to stop this menace and provide them a safer world to live in?
I was bullied right from when I was in the third standard. A couple of my classmates (who were really burly) used to constantly tease me all through the day. What started as playful mockery in the junior classes turned into serious bullying as we moved up the academic ladder. Although years have passed - I'm in college now - I still have the scars from all those years of bullying.
I think being quiet and an introvert made me an easy target for my bullies. They used to break or steal my belongings, call me names in front of the whole class and sometimes, even beat me up in the hallway and the playground. I never revealed these experiences to my parents or teachers out of fear. Encouraged by this, my bullies became even more aggressive. I used to cry inconsolably, without letting anybody see me doing so. I wondered, "Why me?" every time I was treated badly, but got no real answer.
When I was in class nine, I finally got some relief. My dad (a bank officer) was transferred to a different city. More than the agony of losing my friends of so many years, it was the ecstasy of finally being free of the assaults of my bullies that filled my heart with overwhelming joy!
Even after so many years, I can still recollect all those terrible experiences. It took me a long time and tremendous effort to blank out those tormenting memories. I wish those incidents had never happened. And I pray that they never will happen to anyone else.